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Simple step-by-step way to have fun while keeping costs down

I have found that sometimes it is difficult coming up with ideas of what to as a family for fun. The danger is that without a source of ideas, you can fall back on costly activities.

For example, taking a family of five to the movies costs around  $60-70 and if you are like me, that’s usually the first idea that comes to my mind when deciding to go out.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with spending money on family outings, but spending $50-100 a week can stop you from reaching other family financial goals.

In my last year of college, a visiting lecturer to one of my classes gave us several ideas on how to be more frugal and better investors. I loved one of his ideas for having a great time as families without breaking the bank.

First, Create a List

Spend some time with your spouse and kids creating a list of everything you like to do together as well as vacations that you’d like to take. At this point, don’t discriminate. The idea is to be exhaustive and not reject any activities.

I’ve created a short example list for my family below. Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize everything on the list since some of it is specific to our local area.

Family Activities

Second, Assign a Satisfaction Level

The next step is to assign a satisfaction value to each activity. For this example, I used a scale of Low-Medium-High. I recommend keeping the scale simple, but you could add Very Low and Very High to the list if you’d like.

A side benefit to doing this as a family is that you might be surprised by what is important and fun to different members of the family. After creating our example list for this post, I had my wife run through it quickly and I was a little surprised by one or two changed she made.

Satisfaction Level

Third, Assign a Cost Level

With the satisfaction levels in place, now assign an approximate cost level to each activity.

Again, I recommend using a simple scale instead of actual dollar values (though you certainly can). In my example below, I used None-Low-Medium-High-Very High. What I found really interesting was that we didn’t have any activities that fell into the High category. There was a leap from Medium to Very High. Again, you might learn somethings about you and your family’s preferences as you complete this exercise.

Cost Level

Last, Rank by Satisfaction and then by Cost

The last step is the easiest. First, re-order your activities by Satisfaction with the activities that provide the most satisfaction at the top. Then, rearrange all of the activities within a given satisfaction level by cost with the lowest cost being at the top. I know that might sound a little confusing, which is why I include pictures :)

I recommend doing all of this in Excel so that you can easily make changes, rearrange and save your list.

Family Activities sorted by cost and satisfaction

Review the Findings

If you’ve followed each of the steps, you now have a list of activities that you enjoy doing as either a family or couple sorted by how much satisfaction you get out of each activity and the cost associated.

Hopefully, you’ll see that you have plenty of low to no cost activities that you really enjoy doing. So the next time you are wondering what to do, you can just pull out your list and pick something.

Important Note: I am not saying that you shouldn’t do the High and Very High cost activities. What I am saying is this:

  1. Focus mainly on doing things that you love and don’t cost much.
  2. Pick a couple of the expensive activities to do each year, or maybe once a year, and save for them.

Also, keep adding to and changing the list as time passes. Make this a living document.

How do you decide what to do for fun?


Tags: , , | Filed under Saving Money, Family


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